Legislation proposed in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly would prevent doctors and health care facilities from discriminating against unvaccinated patients. Doctors would be required to treat unvaccinated families in their practice, limit tactics used to place pressure on patients to use vaccines and prevent medical staff from requiring parents or guardians to sign a liability waiver if they decline or delay one or more federally recommended vaccines.1 2
The bill would also protect doctors from being penalized by health insurance companies for providing health care to unvaccinated patients and prevent child protective services employees from instigating a neglect investigation of parents solely based on a parent’s choice to delay or decline vaccines.
House Bill 286, also known as the Informed Consent Protection Act, would “support parents in obtaining fair and equal access to medical treatment for their children regardless of their child’s vaccination status.”3
The bill’s primary sponsor is Representative Daryl Metcalfe. Co-sponsors include Rep. Jim Cox, Rep. Dawn Keefer, Rep. Russ Diamond, Rep. Rich Irvin, Rep. Lee James and Rep. Rob Kauffman.1
“We live in the United States of America where you should have the freedom to decide what is injected inside your body or your child’s body. It’s a parent’s right to make that decision for their child. Our children do not belong to the state. This is not communist Russia. This is the United States of America,” Rep. Metcalfe said.2
According to the bill, “A health care practitioner or a health care facility may not discriminate against a patient or parent or guardian of a patient based solely upon a patient or parent or guardian of a patient choosing to delay or decline a vaccination. Exercising the right to informed consent by delaying or declining vaccinations under this act may not be the reason for a patient or family member of a patient to be dismissed from a practice or lose medical privileges or benefits.”4
HB 286 also bars insurance companies from penalizing doctors with low vaccination rates. It states, “An insurer shall not deny a health care practitioner’s participation in an insurance plan or decrease the practitioner’s reimbursements through fines or financial penalties due to low patient vaccination rates or due to a practitioner’s decision not to vaccinate a patient.”4
Additionally, the bill prohibits investigations by child protective services should parents choose to delay or decline vaccination for their child. The bill states, “Child protective services shall not initiate an investigation against a parent or guardian for the sole reason of a parent or guardian choosing to delay or decline a vaccination for a child of the parent or guardian under this act.”4
The idea for HB 286 comes at a time when an increasing number of pediatric practices throughout the United States are refusing to provide services to families who do not strictly follow the childhood vaccine schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This trend coincides with new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that it is acceptable for pediatricians to dismiss families who refuse vaccines recommended by the AAP and the CDC.5 6
1 Proposed Pennsylvania bill forces doctors to treat unvaccinated children. ABC Action News WPVI-TV Apr. 30, 2019.
2 Heckel M. Pennsylvania lawmaker’s bill would require doctors to treat unvaccinated kids. ABC27 Apr. 30, 2019.
3 House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda. Dec. 3, 2018.
4 House Bill No. 286. Pennsylvania General Assembly.
5 Nelson R. New AAP Policy on Patient Dismissal for Vaccine Refusal May “Erode Solidarity” Among Pediatricians. Infectious Disease Advisor May 24, 2018.
6 Deem MJ, Navin MC, Lantos JD. Considering Whether the Dismissal of Vaccine-Refusing Families Is Fair to Other Clinicians. JAMA Pediatr 2018; 172(6): 515-516.